Lewis Lochs: a guide.

I thought that it might be useful to some folks who are intending to visit the Isle of Lewis if I give some information on some of the trout lochs which I have managed to fish while on my visits there. For the first time visitor there is a huge range of fishing available, including sea trout and salmon, however I am only going to examine the trout lochs which can, for the most part, be fished without a permit or any other restrictions.

The first, and best advice I can give is go and see Donnie who works in Sportsworld in Stornoway. You can ring him on +44 (0)1851 705464. Donnie gets to talk to everyone on the island who is fishing and so knows where you should go and where is fishing well. He can also arrange guided tours, boats and all that sort of thing as well as provide flies and tackle. Please don't believe the reports you read in some of the fishing press concerning the area.

It must be said that some of these lochs are a bit remote and require quite a bit of walking and it is important that you are up to the task before you set off across the moor. Be sure you can navigate and also be aware that some parts of the moor make for very difficult walking, so a loch which may appear only a short stroll from the road can actually prove quite hard work to get to. If you are not used to walking the moor then I would suggest that you restrict yourself to the lochs near to the road until you get used to spotting the dangerous bits and get fit enough to venture further afield.

I am going to list the lochs in no particular order and the views are my own and are based on my own experiences. Yours might differ and if you have any first hand experience of the lochs then be sure to mail me with any opinions and info you might have. Mail me from here.

One problem you will encounter is that there are now two versions of the OS map in circulation and they spell the names of the lochs differently depending on which you consult. The map I will use is the Landranger sheet 8 1:50,000. It is called "Stornoway and North Lewis." Right here goes:-

Loch Urrahag.

Loch Urrahag.

Loch Vatandip (350337) If you are heading out from Stornoway then go just a little way out the Pentland road and you will find a passing space which has been "extended" to provide a good parking spot for the angler. On the south shore the peat banks are quite high behind the loch and the shoreline consists of canted layers of rock which prove difficult to walk in some places. In the past this was thought a very good loch but a few years back I took some nice fish from it which turned out to be very infected with parasites. The trout tend to be very silver and they do fight well. However in recent years I have had great difficult getting anything other than a few very small fish for quite a few hours fishing. The boat which used to be on this loch has been moved and I can only assume that this also reflects on the fact that the quality of fishing seems to have declined considerably in the last 5 years. Hopefully it will make a recovery and this is a loch which is certainly worth a throw but at present it probably isn't worth too much work. Vatandip is at the top of the Creed system and so should get the occasional sea trout and salmon late in the season, I have never seen any evidence of them but can easily believe that they must be in there.

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Loch nan Ramh (327300) You can park at the little road which leads out to Loch Gil Speireig Mor or even better you can drive up this road a few hundred yards to quite a large area to park well off the road. This is quite a small loch and is very shallow in many places. It also seems to have collected quite a range of litter and junk over the years and this makes it most untidy. Locally it has quite a good reputation and it is said to hold good trout. However I have never managed to see or catch them. For the most part the fish I have taken here have been very small indeed and at no time have I seen reasonable fish rise. Perhaps it has been netted, over fished or is just having a bad few years. It is also well possible that there are some very big fish in there but that they are clever enough not to show themselves when I am about. In this case it might prove useful to try fishing it late in the evening or even after dark. Loch nan Ramh should also get the occasional salmon, if they are not all netted out of the river, in the later part of a wet season. I have also fished Loch Gil Speireig Mor but have only taken very small fish from it.

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Loch Arnish (424302) The road goes right out to this loch, though it is quite high above it. There is loads of space to park around disused buildings along the road and near the loch. This loch has banks which slope very steeply down to the waters edge and so can be quite difficult for the fly fisher. Those fishing the worm could probably expect to do much better here. Locally it has a good reputation but I don't like it as it is surrounded by junk and litter and the high banks make it feel a bit odd, it is also quite sheltered by these banks and so might fish on a day when you can't stand elsewhere due to the wind. As I wasn't keen on the setting I have only fished this loch once, with very little success, and so I can only refer you to local knowledge which seems very positive. In view of the hundreds of lochs on Lewis I can see no reason to fish one which has a less that desirable environment.

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Map.

Loch Urrahag (322475) This is probably the largest loch in the northern part of the island and the road comes right to the end of the loch between Barvas and Arnol. If you take supplies then Urrahag could provide a good day out should you fish it the whole way around. A few years back the land around was reseeded and I think this improved the fish considerably but in more recent years they seem to have gone back somewhat. None the less this is still a great loch to fish and well worth a throw. I have always found the east bank to offer better fishing than the westerly side but have taken fish off both. Quite often the banks are made up of big stones and so the water can be deep close in. I am also told that it can fall away very quickly right up at the road and Kenny Kennedy took his big fish in the north west corner right by the road. You can easily park off the road but be careful when getting back out onto the road as traffic goes quite quickly through here and the last thing they expect is someone to pull out. The parking spot here makes a good starting point for a few other lochs nearby.

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Loch Bhruthadail (315460) This loch is connected to Urrahag and there is a little bridge so you can cross over. Just watch the ground around the gate as it is very soft and the puddles can be quite deep :-) In my experience Bhruthadail seems to contain smaller fish than in Urrahag itself and the part at the north end by the connecting stream seems to be the best bit. However the little river which flows into Bhruthadail on the east bank is much bigger than you might expect and I can't help but feel that there might be a few bigger fish lurking in there. There is also a nice sandy beach for having your tea on. My guess is that it probably isn't worthwhile walking all the way out just to fish here but on the other hand if you happened to be at the end of Urrahag then Bhruthadail is certainly worth a throw.

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Loch Spealtravat (312453) This loch is connected to Bhruthadail by a short stream and is very similar in character to Bhruthadail, including the sandy beach. I have only been to it once and was much plagued by midges as the wind dropped and it went flat calm. This was less than ideal conditions for fishing and I didn't manage to catch any fish. Nor did I see any fish moving and so I can't get too excited about this loch. If you have come down the east side of Urrahag and Bhruthadail then be careful crossing the river as it would appear to be pretty deep near where it enters Bhruthadail. To be honest I don't think that Spealtravat is worth the extra distance unless there is something in there I don't know about and my advice would be to head east to Breivat.

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Neilly, Roddy & Argocat

Ready to fish on a Lewis loch.

Loch Breivat (330455) Breivat is a large and quite shallow loch with a stoney bank that makes for hard walking. The bog between Bhruthadail and Breivat is also pretty difficult being cut into big hags and so despite the short distance it is quite a slog getting between the two lochs. Breivat is one of those lochs that is really going to take the best part of a day to fish properly. Parts of the bank are made up of large stones but there are also areas where it is ideal for wading and while I am loath to recommend wading, and don't do it myself, I can't help but feel that this loch might benefit. Despite being shallow and feeling that it might be more fertile than other surrounding lochs I have seen no evidence of larger than normal fish on Breivat but it does seem to hold a reasonable head of average sized fish. Perhaps the larger fish get into action of an evening or early morning. I would also suggest that a reasonable breeze is required here as the water is quite clear and the fish seem to lie quite close in so it's handy to have something to hide your cast and outline. As I have said the bank can be pretty hard walking so be warned that it takes quite some considerable time to walk the whole way around Breivat and it isn't easy. If you climb up onto the peat then things don't get any easier.

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Loch Spealdravat Mor (328473) There is a peat road out to this loch or you can easily nip across from Urrahag. However, if you come down to it from Breivat then do be very careful as the ground can be dangerously soft. My advice would be to stay to the east of the line of where the little burn enters Spealdravat, the ground to the west of this line, at the south end of the loch, is very soft indeed and I have had to beat a hasty retreat from it. You can then easily walk around the shores of the loch. Locally this loch gets a very good reputation, despite being quite small, and is said to hold good fish. This year (2000) I have had the time to give it a bit of attention and have taken good fish from it. The fish are probably larger than average, though not huge, but seem of very good quality indeed. However this loch would appear to have attracted a lot of attention and so I suspect that it has been fished very hard (read: otter-boarded, netted and abused any other way to trail fish from it.) I suspect that this is why it is so hard to get fish out of it and I rarely even saw a fish moving. It is also surrounded by litter. Worth a throw though.

To update this as of 2004 I have found this loch holding fewer fish with each passing year and suspect that it has been badly poached. It will probably be several years before stocks return to a reasonable level.

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Loch Orasay (390280) I've only been here once, for a short while and I didn't catch any fish. But, this loch is very deep close in and the water is very clear. What I did notice was that there was a considerable number of little fish swimming about, my visit was in September. I can't help but feel that there must be large trout in there feeding on all these little fish. With this in mind it would be well worth trying late at night, even perhaps well after dark. It might also be found that a small spinner might work very well and for the fly angler a lure in one of the larger sizes might work well. If you are thinking of fishing this loch in the dark then be sure to wear one of these floatation things as the bits I saw went down to considerable depths within feet of the shore. This loch might have potential to produce big fish if you can find a way to get them out.

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Loch Urrahag trout.

Loch Urrahag trout.

Loch Achmore (310285) This loch gets a reputation for producing good fish and it is also quite a nice loch to fish. You can get your car down almost to the water's edge, though you do have to open a few gates to gain access. Just go into the bit of old road at Achmore and go through the gate leading to the water treatment plant. Open it and take your car down the hill. There is no better place to go should you be looking for a quick hour of fishing and a good sunset and I would suggest that you attempt to spend an evening here. There are some good fish in the loch and I have managed to take some of them out so nearly anyone must be able to do it. It is also an easy loch to walk around and you could certainly make a whole day out here. I believe that the fish were better in past years but then 1999 wasn't a good season anywhere so it may be that Achmore will be back on form in future years. It must be said that even in 1999 I had good fish from it and it may well be one of the best lochs on Lewis in terms of the average size of fish.

In 2003 anglers were advised to avoid this loch as it was subject to a bloom. Since that I haven't fished it and am not sure if it has recovered.

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Loch Foid (313278) I hooked, and lost, a very very big fish on this loch. Perhaps it was a salmon, I don't know, but I still think it was a big trout. Anyhow, this isn't a very promising loch and lots of it appears to be very shallow. Also the river at the east end is very deep and so you can't cross it here, this prevents you from going right around the loch without a detour. If you are out at Loch Achmore then Foid is but a short struggle across the heather and so it is worth the little trip. If you are interested then I hooked my large fish in the narrow neck that joins the two ends of the loch together. Had it not of been for my one "big" encounter then I would file this loch under "hardly worth the walk" but the fact that I lost a big fish in it will encourage me to go back on my next Lewis trip. As a footnote to this I took a reasonable brown trout, if a bit skinny, from it in the 2000 season and also saw a salmon jump in September 2000. So it might be worth a throw if only for the slight chance of taking a salmon. I guess that this loch might be better early in the season rather than later when I have been fishing it.

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Map.

Loch Laxavat Ard (245383) You need a permit to fish this loch as it is part of the Carloway system and so often holds salmon. Over the last few years the Carloway system has had great runs of salmon and there have been a lot of fish in the system. Last time I bought a permit it was 10 pounds for the week so it's not over the top and if there is water then you stand a reasonable chance of a salmon. With that in mind it is probably some of the best value salmon fishing in the UK. Laxavat Ard also holds some great trout, which is what I am mostly interested in, and so is well worth a throw just for trout alone. I had a great trout off the big point at the south end of the loch and have had a selection of reasonable fish from other parts of the loch. The banks are pretty high, specially on the west shore where small cliffs plunge right into the water, so you can't always fish all the spots you might like to. On the other hand the road comes pretty close to the loch and so you don't have to walk so very far if you can fish that bank. The Pentland Road which runs past this loch is marked as unsuitable for normal traffic on some older maps but this is not the case at all. It is still single track and so not a road for flying along but it is a good road and gives easy access to quite a few lochs. Over the last few years Laxavat Ard has produced some seriously big brown trout. Most of these have come to people trolling spinners and the like for salmon but never the less those fish are in there and there is always the chance that the fly angler might take one. Perhaps if you were willing to fish it after dark the bigger trout might move into the more shallow water, though due to the nature of the banks you would need to take great care in some areas. I suspect that because of the good runs of salmon in recent years more anglers have been fishing the loch and so more of the bigger trout have been taken by those fishing for salmon. This is an interesting indication of what a reasonable sized loch can produce in terms of the size of trout, though it is unlikely that taking these larger fish on the fly will be a common thing.

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Loch Airigh Seibh (260388) This loch is across the road from Laxavat Ard, though it is quite a walk from the road to the loch side as there is a small hill. You can't see the loch from the road but it is quite a nice spot and well worth the walk on a reasonable day. This loch requires the Carloway permit for permission to fish. Airigh Seibh is supposed to get salmon but I haven't seen any sign of them and don't believe that it is fished much so the salmon fishing can't be that good. However I went out after trout and had quite a nice day out there. For fly fishing the east side of the loch is probably best and there is a good point there with a fank from which I took a few nice trout. They were not big fish but about average sized for the area. There is also an island and I am sure there must be reasonable fish lying in the channel between the east side of the loch and the island. The west side has quite a steep bank and on the day I fished this loch the wind was not suitable for fishing from it. However if I get a nice day I am going to take a stroll out here again as I think it could produce good trout on the right day.

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Map.

Loch Nan Leac (430483) Loch Nan Leac is quite a distance out from anywhere and so you should be sure you are happy and fit enough to get out there. The walking is quite difficult and it certainly isn't somewhere to go on your first trip out across the bog. Have a go at a few closer to the road before you head out here. On the map above I have named the loch, the name begins just to the east of the loch. This loch gets a reputation as one of the best trout lochs on Lewis and from the rubbish discarded along it's shores I am sure this probably was the case. However there are lots of rumours that it suffers badly from netting and when I fished it there was no sign of the big fish it is famous for. However I did manage to take a few quite small trout which were very silver and put up an excellent fight for their size. The loch has clear water and would appear to be quite shallow with the fish lying close in to the banks. It is possible to wade parts of it should this be necessary but to be honest if you do you are probably standing where you should be fishing. It is possible that if the loch had suffered badly from netting then the locals have given up on it for a while and so it may well be worth a cast however it is a long way to go only to find that the loch is empty. If you do decide to make the trip then this would be the ideal place to spend the night. There is some reasonable ground by the loch where you could easily pitch a tent and the loch sits in a nicely sheltered dip. With the water being so clear the middle of the night might be the only chance to catch any big fish that might be in there.

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Loch Baravat (462597) This loch is a bit out of the way from my usual travels though it is right by the road and so offers easy access for the angler. It is a very small loch with very clear water and a broch on a little island in the loch. I have only fished it once and had no success but I am sure there must be good fish in this water and suggest that you try it at night. In view of how close it is to the road and the fact that the banks are good there should be no problem getting access at night, all you need is a torch. I believe that locals consider these lochs "early" meaning that they fish well in the early part of the season. With the water being so clear and the loch appearing to be pretty shallow if there are decent fish at all in here then it would probably take darkness to tempt them out of hiding and also to hide your leader.

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Loch Keartavat.

Loch Keartavat.

Loch Keartavat (418522) This loch makes quite a nice walk from the road. You can park at the entry to the Steinacleit historic monument and wander your way out to Keartavat. For the most part the bog is easy going and there is a track but the last few hundred yards are dominated by difficult peat hags and are a bit more of a challenge. Never the less it is a nice spot to spend a pleasant morning or afternoon. I found it difficult to get any fish from the south or westerly banks but once I came to the easterly bank then I started into fish. The water off this bank is very shallow indeed and dominated by lots of stones and the fish appeared to be hiding in the stones. The fish were very good looking little trout and were bright and silvery but when I opened them I found them to be full of parasites. So while this loch is certainly worth the walk for a bit of sport I wouldn't recommend that you keep or eat any of the fish unless the situation has changed since I was out there. The fish I opened had been feeding on little fry and so it is possible that there may be a few larger trout in there for the taking. If you are fishing late in the season then be sure to try a bright fly such as a Solicitor for any trout that may be feeding on fry.

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Loch Raoinavat (235460) Raoinavat is right by the road and there is even a parking space at the eastern end so you can easily get your car in off the road. On the northern side some of the banks can be quite high and difficult and so they are not so easy to fish and this is true to a lesser degree on the southern side. However, there are still lots of spots where the fly angler can get a line out in most wind directions and this loch is worth a cast. In past years I have done quite well on Raoinavat and there is no doubt that there are some larger than average fish in there. In 1999 I didn't do so well but then it wasn't a good year anywhere so I am going to put it down to that. There are some points about half way along the southern side which are probably the best spot. The central section of the loch seems to be better than either the eastern or western ends, though as ever there are no hard and fast rules. In 2000 I had some very nice fish indeed from Raoinavat. This loch does seem to be fished quite often but yet it doesn't seem to have been prone to the more extreme methods of fish extraction which are often practised on Lewis lochs. It is not always an easy loch to get fish from and it never seems to have times when the fish just go mad and it's possible to catch, say, 10 fish for an outting on the other hand you stand a chance of a good fish. The northern side seems more consistent in it's ability to produce fish but it is hard to tell if this is due to a north wind being better or if the northern side just holds more willing trout.

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Raoinavat trout

Raoinavat trout.

Loch na Moineach (293383) Although this loch is not so very far from the road, perhaps 2 miles or so, it is quite a walk as it is uphill all the way. The bog is also quite deep in heather for a lot of the way and so can be quite hard walking. In saying that it is a nice walk with great views and well worth doing on a good sunny day. However, don't do it for the fishing as Moineach holds only a few very small fish in my experience. It is a shallow loch which is slowly being invaded with weeds and it doesn't appear to be very fertile. It is a nice place to sit and watch the world go by while taking some tea but not at all ideal for fishing so if all you want is fish then don't bother.

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Loch nam Breac (282370) You can fish this loch on the way to or from Moineach and I suspect, despite the name, that it offers similar prospects. The fish appear to be pretty small and very dark in colour. I suspect that this is quite a dangerous loch as it is shallow in many places but deep in others. In the areas where it is deep the peat banks drop right into the loch and in some areas the bank is undercut. If you decide to do some fishing out here then ensure that you are not standing on thin air before making the first cast, if the bank fails then you could easily land in very deep water. The little stream which runs from this loch has some nice deep pools and it is possible that it holds some salmon in a good year, indeed they probably make it up to the loch as well. Despite the deep pools it is a very small stream indeed so don't go out there expecting the Spey and really you would do best with the worm.

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Loch an Duna (284472) Another loch that is right by the road; Loch an Duna can produce good fish but they are not always so very easy to come by. At present this loch doesn't seem to be too badly attacked by poaching and the like and it can actually be quite a nice spot to fish despite being near the road and the village of Bragar. I have found it a handy spot of an evening for a quick throw before dark, but you might do much better if you continue fishing after dark as well. There is lots of good parking at the west end of the loch where a peat road heads out across the bog, don't be tempted to drive along it in your car. The fish can often lie quite close in to the banks which tend to have lots of large stones. I suspect that the fish are just hiding in these stones. For this reason don't be too keen to get to the edge, it might be worth having a cast from a few yards back. I am told that the area around the old fort can be a good spot when the wind is right. One thing I have noticed with this loch is that on a calm evening there are not always a lot of fish to be seen rising. So, don't let this put you off if you fancy giving it a try but don't expect to catch a lot of fish either as this can be a stiff loch.

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Nicely marked Loch an Duna trout.

Loch Thota Bridein (335275) I am not quite sure who has the fishing rights on this loch now, I believe it is a Soval loch but that the Stornoway Angling folks have a boat on it. Either way it's best to enquire from Donnie in Sportsworld as to what the requirements are. I have fished this loch a few times, most recently in September 2000 and not found it anything to get excited about. It appears to hold a reasonable head of small fish but I have never found them easy to catch, at least not from the bank anyhow. It may be that anglers fishing from the boat can do much better and it might also be a good loch on which to learn to fish from the boat, again Donnie can give guidance on these matters. There is a good parking spot where the road runs right by the loch and just about where the map shows the little river going under the road.

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Loch Gunna (405415) This loch is quite close to the Stornoway to Barvas road but be careful when selecting a parking spot as there are a few dips in the road here and this can make parking tricky. There is a peat road entry just opposite the loch but even this spot isn't ideal and getting back out onto the road can be risky. The loch is just a short walk from the road but the bog is not easy walking here and so you do have to take your time and be prepared to get more out of breath than you might expect. Once at the loch walking the banks can be a bit tricky as well, be careful that you don't twist an ankle in the various holes and burns hidden by undergrowth. This loch would appear to hold a plentiful supply of small trout and I found them very easy to catch on the fly. For this reason if might be a good spot for a beginner, though the high banks can make casting difficult in some spots. All the fish I took were in the 6 - 8 inch range and this is certainly not the spot to come if you want to get a big fish. There is some talk that one of the Stornoway Angling Association boats will be put on this loch. It is a very small loch and so I am not sure of the idea of this but should the boat arrive then it would make an ideal spot to teach someone boat angling without the dangers of vast expanses of water. Be warned; should you want to head east from this loch to the others out the moor it is very, very difficult walking indeed. This is the only area of bog that I have ever retreated from without reaching my objective. It was after a period of very wet weather but even so this part of the bog is very dangerous. The best advice I can give is don't bother going beyond Loch Gunna.

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Loch Smuaisaval (200300) The best approach to this loch is to head out the B8059 road towards Great Bernera. After going a short distance out this road and with Loch Sgaire on your left you will see a disused quarry on your right. You can park at the quarry and then just head up and over the hill to Smuaisaval. The walk will take 10 or 15 minutes. Smuaisaval is a nice loch and looks ideal for fly fishing should the wind be in the west but, for some reason, the fish are said not to come well to the fly. My experience has shown this to be the case but it is certainly well worth giving it a try as it seems to contain a reasonable head of good sized and good quality fish. Don't bother going out there if the wind is in the east as the east bank is mostly high cliffs which fall down into the water and so flyfishing would be impossible. The water is very clear and I would imagine that this loch would fish much better with a good wind, perhaps it is because of this clear water that the fish are so hard to tempt. The west bank offers good access right along it's length and although it is quite high anglers with a long rod should have no problem getting a cast off. This loch shows evidence of the attentions of the local population, mostly in the form of discarded beer cans, and so may, on occasions, be subjected to the more extreme methods of catching trout.

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Looking south down Loch Smuaisaval.

Right, I think that will do for the mean time. Although you may not think it this page probably has enough fishing for several holidays on Lewis. The fun of Lewis is to explore and there are just so many lochs that you could probably devote a lifetime to doing it. This page just happens to be a selection from the lochs that I have fished and while some are not as good as others nearly all have something of interest about them. Visiting these lochs is good fun and it really does help if you enjoy walking, remote places and have a basic understanding of map reading and navigation. If you are trotting out across the bog then do be sure to take a map and a compass, there is a new edition of the OS map for the area and it corrects a few mistakes in the older one. The down side to the new map is that all the names are in gaelic and while this is very interesting it also makes the map somewhat useless for the visitor should you need to ask for directions. Still, that adds to the sport of it all.

Be sure to have a nice time and be sure to mail me with any additions or changes you have.

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